In the light of the networks' constant bombardment, I propose that a new cable network be founded: The All Dead Pope All the Time Network, or ADPATN.
A camera can be trained upon the Pope's corpse lying in state, and both camera and Pope can be left running for the indefinite future, or until such time as the Pope swells up and busts. After that his remains, with the exception of his heart, which the Poles want, can be interred in the special grotto in St. Peter's Basilica which has been waiting for him. Then another camera can be set up and trained on his sarcophagus or packing crate or Hold-a-Pope and left running, and anybody who wants can tune in, 7/24, to see how the Pope is doing. That is, to see whether the Pope is still dead or whether he has somehow resurrected himself.
That's a pretty exciting prospect, and if the Pope does manage to return, is he going to be mad! Because by that time there'll be a new Pope----somebody will have his job, wear his weirdass hat, be traipsing about the world in his Popemobile.
So the ADPATN Network will always have that element of suspense: Is THIS the day the Pope returns?
Of course, if there's room for an All Dead Pope All the Time on the airwaves, then there also must be room for an All Dead Elvis All the Time, and there may even be room for an All Dead Terri Schiavo All the Time, not to mention an All Dead Princess Diana All the Time.
Actually, this is nothing new. Back in the '70's Spain had a special network entirely devoted to Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s last days, or weeks, or months----The All Almost-Dead All the Time Francisco Franco Network. You may remember that Franco took an outrageously long time to die, so long that no one was quite sure he was dead when he finally did die. So for years after his expiration date Spain had an All Is-He-Really-Dead All the Time Network. It took decades of staring at the Generalissimo's dessicated corpse before the Spanish people could fully believe their good fortune----no more Paco!!
It's a little known fact that even earlier there was a cable network devoted to Howard Hughes. The cameras were planted all over his Las Vegas Desert Inn penthouse---The Is Howard Still Alive Network. Thing is, nobody could watch it because nobody had cable way back then. But it's easy to imagine what it must have looked like: The bearded billionaire, Buddha-like, sitting for hours in his bed, slurping up Campbell's chicken noodle soup, staring at endless reruns of Ice Station Zebra, being waited on hand & foot by Mormon attendants wearing rubber gloves and sliding about the place with their stockinged feet shod in empty Kleenex boxes. Well……I'm not dead sure they wore Kleenex boxes on their feet, but it's a believable touch. And in any case, that's the singular charm of the IHSA Network. You're forced to imagine the whole thing! There are no surviving videotapes! This means, of course, that you don't even need a screen to watch it. You can just adopt the lotus pose and meditate on Howard H, his 9 inch nails growing right before your mind's eye.
It's not a long jump from picturing Howard Hughes to imagining the moribund major broadcast networks without actually turning on your TV set. Not only are they almost dead, but so are half their viewers. Try it for yourself: Sit in front of your TV, take your clicker in hand, and……this is the tricky part……DON'T turn it on. Just stare at the blank screen. In no time you'll be seeing the ghost of Dinah Shore, singing "See the U.S.A., in your Chevrolet." And Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow will bring you the great old days of TV broadcast news, when the newsreaders had enough balls to contradict the government. ….Or did they? Anyway, YOU control the vertical, YOU control the horizontal, so you can IMAGINE they did if that makes you any happier.
And, of course, you can imagine current news, as well. You can imagine, for example, the World Trade Towers reconstituting themselves, shooting skyward like giant elevators, and all the jumpers popping up from the ground and back into their windows and the flames going out and the planes backing out of the towers and the terrorists backstroking to Saudi Arabia having done nothing worse than take a few flying lessons and tip a couple lapdancers. You can further imagine that the invasion of Iraq never happened, or, if you're so inclined, you can pretend that we're pulling out tomorrow and leaving the Iraqis to fend for themselves. You can imagine bemasked Iraqi insurgents putting the heads of their victims BACK ON and the poor hostages smiling, weeping with joy, and embracing their captors.
But why stop with the small stuff? Why not imagine George Bush and Dick Cheney announcing that they're sick of war and will be trashing the Star Wars boondoggle and will instead spend those tens of billions on education, medicine, infrastructure, and the environment? Why NOT imagine it? It's easy if you try.
Now that you're warmed up make a HUGE leap of the imagination and picture Gore winning the White House in 2000.
That was exhausting, so take a break and go pee and make yourself a peanut butter sandwich. Just imagine that some commercials are playing while you're away from the set. When you get back, imagine you're watching a baseball game. Imagine that the players are no longer jacked up on 'roids, and that things like fielding, baserunning, and strategy still matter. The game in your head is bound to be a thousand times more compelling than the real ones. Do you see what's happening? You're turning back the clock to the days when radio ruled the Earth! We listened to accounts of the games and pictured them for ourselves. It was ever so much richer an experience.
But the trouble with radio was that you still had to LISTEN. With the Imagination Network you don't have to watch OR listen. You connect the dots, you fill in the blanks. Actually, you don't even connect dots. There ARE no dots. It's ALL in your head.
If you want Princess Di to stride the Earth again, voila! There she is, miraculously emerging in one piece from that crumpled Mercedes! Turns out she was wearing her seatbelt! But creepy Dody wasn't. So now she's free to date YOU! And what's that knocking at the door? Why yes! It's herself, come to have some tea and crumpets, some very wet crumpets, with little ol' you. How did she find you out here in your Arkansas trailer park? God knows, but here she is, and she's lookin' damn good for a horsey Brit of a certain age. And don't think Dody and her other lovers haven't taught her a few tricks, tricks she'll be glad to use on you! Maybe she'll even demonstrate some of the tricks which Camilla Horsey Parker taught Prince Charles and which Charles, in turn, taught Di. What kinda tricks? Horse tricks, of course. The kinds of things the British nobility pick up very young in the haylofts of equestrian stables.
But maybe you don't want to imagine Princes Di sitting on your face. Maybe you're a bored housewife who wants to watch The All Brad Pitt Giving Me Head All the Time Network. No problem! There he is now, knocking on the door of your doublewide, fresh from having dumped Jennifer Aniston AND Angelina Jolie. Is he disappointed when he beholds all 320 pounds of you, splayed out on your barcalounger stuffing your maw with Bavarian mints? Hell no! You're in charge of the vertical, baby, and Brad gets REAL vertical just at the sight of you.
And after he worshipfully pleasures you, why, he'll drive you over to WalMart, where he'll push the cart while you shop till you drop. And when you get to the register, why, the girl will say: "Your money's no good here." And she'll just wave you and your hundreds of dollars of appliances and toilet paper in bulk, right on through. Because this is YOUR network now. The one in your head. The one where it's all coming true just the way you need it to.
And the next time you look down at yourself, why, you'll have slimmed down something amazing……just like Anna Nicole Smith did. You'll realize you've become so hot that Brad Pitt doesn't rate you any more. "Go on back to Angelina……IF she'll take you," you say. And just as you're about to imagine an even handsomer, younger, studlier, lover knocking at your door, well, here comes a REAL knocking at your door.
It's your ex-husband, and he's here to claim his TV set AND his barcalounger. Suddenly it's no longer The Imagination Network, it's Reality TV in surroundsound and smello-vision. And your ex DOES smell pretty ripe after sittin' in the cab of his 18-wheeler all day.
"Go ahead," you say, "take your damn TV. Ain' nuthin' good on it no ways---just wars and degradation of the environment and political corruption and Pampers commercials."
"Oh. Listen to Miss Priss. Getting too good for America, are you?" he says as he lugs the set out to his semi. Then he comes back in for the barcalounger. "Go 'wan, get outta that thing." But you can't. Your 320 pounds is STUCK. He goes back out to his truck and comes back with a dolly and slips it under you AND the chair and tips you over. You fall heavily to the floor. "Aw hell," you say, sprawled in front of what used to be your Trinitron. "I've fallen and I can't get up."
The door of your doublewide slams shuts. Hubby and his barcalounger are gone for good. He sounds a couple earsplitting blasts from his airhorn and then starts up the big diesel and rumbles outta your trailer park. You're STILL on the floor, and you STILL can't get up. What's that wetness? Danged if you ain't peed yourself! And isn't that your peanut butter and jelly sandwich that your elbow is stuck in?
But it ain't all bad. Golden silence, broken only by the drip drip drip of your broken faucet, reigns in your doublewide. It's a silence undisturbed by the sounds of CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, or the Home Shopping Network. You can't hear or see ESPN or ESPN II or the Golf Network or A&E or C-Span or Univision. Ranting infomercials? Hell no! In-NO-mercials. No Popeil pushing his Popeil pocket fisherman, no Pope John Paul praying, no Pope John Paul George & Ringo playing, no Jerry Falwell braying, no Tom DeLay delaying, no Osama bin Laden inveighing. No, no, no. Just the sweet silence of a summer evening in a trailer park somewhere in Arkansas.
You wonder if you're gonna die there in a puddle of your own pee. Then you hear a mourning dove's tender coo. What IS that? Oh yeah. Mother nature. There IS another network out there. It's the All-World-All-The-Time-Network. It's not in your head and it's not on any screen. It's something you're living in and on and with, and it's there all the time, but you gotta open your eyes and ears and arms to receive its broadcast. Let it in and it will let you in. See how that works? You are the world and the world is you. What a multi-dimensional treat!
Sure, you're still collapsed on the floor of your doublewide, too fat and depressed to get up, lying there in a puddle of your own pee. But at least you're no longer dependent on CBS, or ABC, or NBC. You're going cold turkey from the History Channel, from Turner Network and Nickelodeon and the All Dead Elvis Network. This new channel you've tuned into is the REAL YOU Network. It's not at all clear how long this network is gonna survive. No more than 48 hours if you can't crawl to the phone and dial 911. Because it's clear you're suffocating, whale-like, under your own weight.
It's a terrible death you're dying, and you're tempted to tune out YOU and tune in your IMAGINATION. When you do, you picture yourself suddenly slim and trim. You bounce to your feet like Mary Lou Retton. You stride outta that doublewide and take flight into the heavens. As you soar toward your reward and St. Peter's Gate, you glance back over your shoulder and catch a glimpse of your moldering corpse through the window of your doublewide. You imagine cameras trained on your earthly remains. You imagine your bloated corpse broadcast to millions of homes: The All Dead You All The Time Network. You hope the sight of you will give your millions of new fans what they think they need.
You flap your wings a couple times more, wondering: What channels does heaven get?